I’ve had two stories published on the website for the American Automobile Associations’s (AAA) Home & Away magazine — both from trips last year to Italy and Romania (if asked for a zip code, enter 73099).
Photo by Richard Varr
The First is on the life of a Venetian Gondolier — more involved than you might think. http://www.homeandawaymagazine.com/Content/Article/5856
And the second is a story on Romanian Moonshine — the country’s national drink, with the best concoctions surprisingly made in simple backyard distilleries (Photo courtesy Romanian Tourist Office, North America).
Orchestra Virtuosi Italiani. Photo by Richard Varr
I’ve seen many classical concerts throughout Europe – small string ensembles furiously bowing Baroque-era selections from the classics of Mozart, Beethoven, Haydn, Bach and Telemann, to name a few. Performed in 17th and 18th century churches along medieval streets and squares, I imagine I’m actually listening to the famous composers themselves.
Richard with Antonio Aiello.
During my April trip to Venice, however, there was something particularly special about listening to a group of virtuoso violinists playing Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in the church of La Pieta — even with scaffolding all around us — where the composer was music director from 1703 until 1740. “When I was a child, I always hoped to play in this church,” says violinist Antonio Aiello, the soloist playing this night. “I like Vivaldi and Bach, and this is a dream for me to play every week here as a soloist or with my orchestra.”
Inside the church of La Pieta with Tiepolo fresco above. Photo by Richard Varr
Construction began in 1745 on the current church building on the same site, situated on Venice’s most popular promenade, the waterside Riva degli Schiavoni off the pale green-tinted lagoon. Built just a few years after Vivaldi’s death in 1741, he never saw the new building with Giambattista Tiepolo’s ceiling fresco, Triumph of Faith, painted in 1755. “When I enter the church and see the Tiepolo fresco above and the balcony where Vivaldi was a conductor, I watch the balcony when I play and imagine Vivaldi is watching,” continues Aiello. “When I play as a soloist, I become very emotional.”
VIDEO: The following are two video clips of this fabulous concert!